Sinclair Plans to Launch DTC to Expand on Bally Sports RSNs

Sinclair Broadcast Group announced plans to expand the broadcast of the Bally Sports regional sports network (RSN) channels with a direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming in the first half of 2022.

Already in Preparation for DTC Launch

The plans were made public during the company’s first quarter earnings call after Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley told investor analysts the broadcast group “already cleared the path with the distributors to launch direct-to-consumer”.

“We have direct-to-consumer rights for the vast majority of our teams, and we’re in discussions to enhance those rights to make the product even better.”

Chris Ripley, CEO, Sinclair Broadcast Group

While Ripley did not go into the specifics of the upcoming service such as price point and launch date, he addressed some of the complexities related to sports professional leagues, like Major League Baseball (MLB) franchises which have the right to negotiate video rights, while the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) administer such negotiations only at the league level.

Bally Sports Regional Networks

Sinclair acquired the Fox Sports Networks from Disney via Diamond Sports, a joint venture with Entertainment Studios, but had to take a $4.23 billion write-down last year to complete the transaction.

The RSNs then became part of a deal between Sinclair and Bally’s Corporation in which the Standard hedge fund-led gaming and entertainment group agreed to pay $85 million for the naming rights of the RSNs over 10 years.

In January, Bally’s announced the RSNs will be rebranded to Bally Sports Regional Networks and will feature the new Bally Sports logo, a process which completed in March. But while the regional networks finished 2020 with 52 million subscribers, another more than 15 million US pay homes were left uncovered due to the lack of MVPD distribution on Dish Network and virtual platforms Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV.

TV Everywhere App

And while Sinclair and its joint venture deal with their incomplete pay TV distribution portfolio, Bally’s launched successfully the Bally Sport-branded app TV Everywhere. The easy transition via a simple update of the existing Fox Sports Net app already available on the phones of millions of subscribers contributed to the success of the TVE app.

“It was a big technical feat to convert over from Fox Sports Go. Now, it’s about improving and enhancing the features in the app.”

Chris Ripley, CEO, Sinclair Broadcast Group

Effectively a precursor of the DTC, the TVE app will also allow Sinclair to take advantage of adjacent opportunities such as sports betting, besides boosting Bally Sports’ distribution reach. Sinclair CEO noted that the app will eventually become the foundational place for interaction and socialization of sports fans.

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